Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"The Myth of the Rational Voter" by Bryan Caplan

This is a book written by an economist who argues that democracy = bad economic policies.

I guess it confirms what we all knew all along: democracies elect their respresentatives irrationally. Voters most often (and inspite of having adequate information to make a rational choice), make choices emotionally rather than rationally. Especially when it comes to economic policies we tend to choose policies that are not in our best interests. The author cites many examples like say the voters' bias for employment as against productivity.

It struck me that India probably has more examples to prove this hypothesis than any other democracy in the world; even with an economist as the prime minister. Loan waivers for farmers, oil subsidies, inflation, the whole "Maharashtra for Maharashtrians" debate, nuclear energy deal -- all issues that the voters saw emotionally, rather than rationally.

An interesting read. A short article by the author here.

10 comments:

Fighter Jet said...

some one has quoted earlier too."Majority is of the fools!"...

Radha said...

Fighter Jet,
Well, not exactly fools, but irrational. As the author has demonstrated in this book, that even the intelligent educated voters tend not to make rational choices.

Nilesh said...

Any reasons why so? Voters are irrational in India cause majority are uneducated and so poor that eeking out a mere living is mission in life. The situation i guess is so acute that mere promises are enough for people to sway. People are, and will remain irrational/emotional as long as fundamental issues of roti-kapda-makaan remain.

Radha said...

Nilesh,
One of the reasons that the author explores is just human tendency. People vote for abstract criteria like personality, rather than a candidate's views on solid issues. But mainly people vote irrationally because of their wrong beliefs. Say globalisation for example; voters generally believed free trade was an evil phenomenon that cost jobs or failed to protect domestic industry. The author has worked with American voters as his research universe; but its not difficult to see that the same would be true in any country.

The author calls such choices "irrational" because they are not based on any real data. People tend to make up their minds about issues like that quite judgementally.

kaya said...

Hmm Radha puttar.
You have gone all intellectual on me.
Im still knee deep in my gol guyppay and bhaturas.

Radha said...

Kaya,
Hahaha, lets see some more snaps from your trip home now!

suramya said...

very true, but for the proper emotional growth :) I would still opt for democracy. Sorry I was missing for so long, have been busy with my move to the US. Will be more regular soon.

Radha said...

Suramya,
Yes, for a lack of a better alternative, I guess democracy still works better than most other forms of govt.

How're you settling in?

Maddy said...

I don't know if I am wrong in saying, if the so called rationally thinking people go for voting, for sure it would make lot of difference in our system.

Radha said...

Maddy,
Maddy, hi. Hmm, maybe I didn't say it clearly. Irrationality as the author has put it, is nothing to do with education or awareness. I think what you're trying to say is that more educated people need to vote. What the author is saying is that even educated people are irrational; majority of the voters are irrational. "Educated" people in india usually dont bother with voting; but that doesn't mean 'rational' people are staying away from the polls.